Thursday, May 8, 2008

U.S. to deport couple to native Pakistan (Toledo Blade)

U.S. to deport couple to native Pakistan
Toledoans overstayed visa 30 years

Article published Thursday, May 8, 2008

A West Toledo couple were released yesterday from federal detention and allowed to return home - temporarily - more than a week after immigration authorities picked them up so they could be deported to their native Pakistan.

"As unbelievable and crazy as this past week has been, I feel nothing but relieved and incredibly lucky that they're coming home," their daughter, Anita Severance, said last night.

Her parents, Waheed Hashmi, 69, and his wife, Nusrat Hashmi, 63, were taken from their home April 29 by agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and until yesterday, were in a suburban Cleveland jail.

Greg Palmore, an immigration and customs spokesman, said Mr. Hashmi came to the United States on a valid student visa in June, 1973. An extension allowed him to stay until September, 1977.

Mrs. Hashmi was granted the same status as her husband, he said.

But the visas and extensions lapsed. In 1987, an immigration judge ordered the couple to leave, Mr. Palmore said.

"At some point, they'll be removed from the United States," Mr. Palmore said. "They did not abide by the judge's ruling, and now [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] will have to remove them at the government's expense."

But Mrs. Severance said the couple worked on gaining legal status for years.

Mr. Hashmi, who received his doctorate from Bowling Green State University, directed animal research facilities for more than a decade at the University of Toledo. He retired last year, his daughter said.

He had proper employment authorization for much of that time and the couple had been fighting through appeals in order to stay, she said.

"It wasn't all that time he was illegally working here by any means," Mrs. Severance said. "He's been trying for all these years, and always felt he had a case to be able to stay here."

Mr. Palmore, of immigration and customs, was blunt: "The gentleman is in the country illegally."
After another appeal was denied in 2006, "they got to the point where, 'We're done trying,'•" Mrs. Severance said.

The couple decided to return to Pakistan and Mr. Hashmi had a job lined up in Lahore.

"They were planning on peacefully going back," Mrs. Severance said. "And then they were picked up."

In addition, Mr. Hashmi has been recovering from prostate cancer and Mrs. Hashmi learned recently she has diabetes.

The couple have a son and two daughters. During the couple's detention, immigration authorities would not say when they might be flown to Pakistan.

"That was very devastating to think about, especially for a mother not to be able to say goodbye to her kids," Mrs. Severance said.

With their release from jail, "at least they will be able to come home and finish their financial matters, sell their home, and be able to say goodbye," Mrs. Severance said.

The couple at home will have to report by phone regularly to immigration authorities, Mr. Palmore said. "We'll continue to move forward with the removal process," he said.

He did not say why they were released, and he had no information last night about when they might be deported.

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